Football Players ARE brands

Hello everybody,

The recent Tiger Woods crisis showed the world how brands and athletes are tightly linked. While Accenture, Gatorade, AT&T dropped the golfer, other brands such as Gillette and Procter and Gamble, have significantly dimmed down their use of Tiger in advertising campaigns. EA Sports played differently as Tiger shared his PGA Tour 2011 video game cover for the first time in 13 years. On the other hand, Nike stood by his athlete and aired an interesting, yet controversial advertsing campaign.

Athletes are the icons of sports brands. The Tiger Woods case showed  us that it can be a double edged sword.  I reckon the most famous football marketing icons would be David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane & Lionel Messi  among others for adidas, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney & Didier Drogba (among others) for Nike. Eto’o being the Puma icon for some years now.

It’s not an easy task to link a player to a brand. It is a long way process. Brands have a very well thought scouting system, and know talented young players before they get under mediatic spotlights. Sponsorship deals are being made, with parents agreement, and the kid grows up with the brand throughout his career. For those who saw the U-19 final where France deafeated Spain 2-1, all these youngsters were (already) wearing either adidas, Nike or Puma footwear. Obviously, these brands did not come up yesterday to add these players to their portfolio.

Gael Kakuta, the Chelsea player, Alexandre Lacazette the Olympique Lyonnais striker and Cédric Bakambu are the perfect examples. Three upcoming french stars, the first one wears the Superfly Vapour II, the OL player strikes with the adidas adizero F50 and Bakambu scored 2 goals against The Netherlands with his Pumas.

The “big three” are in constant look for the next Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. Once players are contracted by either one the three (adidas, Nike, Puma) it is difficult for the other two to step in. In other words, I don’t see Nike approaching Xavi nor adidas willing to sign Didier Drogba. Not only the Spaniard and the Ivory Coast player are already strongly “stamped” by their current sponsor but it will be a very costly deal if it gets through. Secondly I would like to think that the sponsors would rather invest in signing new young players with this amount of cash.




Brands link their image (and vice versa) to footballers from a very early age and this is a long term investment which will pay off when these talented players will lift a World Cup or Champions League trophy. In the meantime, they would have encapsulated their sponsors brand image and values. They would have represented the brand throughout their career. For instance, Zidane & Beckham will always be associated with the adidas brand and ultimately with the Predator boot. Recently, we have seen Nike’s effort to market Cristiano Ronaldo with the Mercurial Vapor Superfly II and Rooney with the T90 Laser III.

Happy to hear your thoughts!

Karl Lusbec


6 thoughts on “Football Players ARE brands

  1. Hi Karl

    Thank you for all your articles – they are very insightful and definately getting me more interested in the world of sports and the marketing machine behind it!


  2. Mambo vipi Chandni!!
    I am impressed and flattered that you left a comment on My Football Lounge! Thank you very much for the compliment, keep on reading, you will become a football marketing expert very soon! 🙂



  3. Karl,

    Without a doubt, football players are brands. Football is used as a starting point to pursue other career interests or ambitions.
    A player like David Beckham is the dream of corporations. He started as a player but, used his image to branch-out to modeling, movies, humanitarian works, homme d’affaires, and so on. This is the reality of athletes today. There are no longer strickly athletes. There are much more than that, until they become entangled in scandals. At that moment, reality hits them in the face, and makes them realize how they scalled the ladder, with their skills.

    There has been an evolution in the marketing approches nowadays by sportswear firms. After putting an end to his profesional days, Zidane continues to be in the limelight featuring in Adidas campaings. Puma introduced a range of athletic merchandise bearing the signature of Pele. Michael Jordan has been the staple of his own signature shoe serie. It comes down to finances. Tiger Woods pocked much more green outside of golf. I bet his portfolio is not as impressive now with the alleged affair. The ones who play their hand correctly, Zizou, set-up not only themselves for life but generations upon generations in perpertuity. How would you like to be born into that family?



  4. Hello FABO,
    Great comment as always. You’re right. Athletes (some of them) have become true icons and are brands flagships. Cashing in more revenues from commercials and merchandise than from the sport they are good at. It is an evolution which started off (to me) with Michael Jordan, and yet very few athletes until now managed to get to his level of performance and marketing icon.

    Yes, after retirement, footballers are being used for several activities (brand embassadors, charity etc….) and therefore keep their image momentum going. Zizou is the perfect example. His career management is impeccable and to your point, it will be tough to walk in his footsteps!


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